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UConn Football: Early signing day preview

Over a dozen incoming recruits are expected to sign their letters of intent during the early signing period.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

Fax machines across the country will be buzzing as college football’s early signing day arrives Wednesday. After being implemented for the first time four years ago, the early signing period (Dec. 16-18) is now firmly entrenched as the highlight of the recruiting calendar.

As of this writing, UConn has 15 known verbal commitments for scholarship players, most of which are likely to sign their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. There are four defensive backs in the class, two linebackers, two running backs, and one quarterback, wide receiver, kicker and defensive lineman apiece. Four of them are three-star recruits according to Rivals, and the rest are two-stars. Eleven of them hold three-star ratings on 247 Sports.

Let’s jump in and preview the 2021 class:

Yakiri Walker (OL) - DeSoto High School, DeSoto, Texas

Walker is a bruising offensive tackle that the coaching staff landed while working Texas heavily in the spring. His footwork will need to improve a little in order to become a mainstay, but his impressive 6’3” 260 lb. frame and good technique with his hands makes him a very solid prospect. Walker was UConn’s first three-star recruit of the 2021 class according to Rivals.

Aaron Turner (ATH) - Gonzaga High School, Washington, DC

Aaron Turner can play running back or wide receiver and also flashes on kick and punt returns with speed you just can’t teach, making him the No. 4-ranked recruit in D.C. and the highest-rated player in UConn’s 2021 class according to Rivals. He held offers from Charlotte, Hawaii, and Rutgers, a school that many (correctly) say is not good at football.

Langston Hardy (EDGE) - Episcopal School of Jacksonville, Jacksonville, Florida

Langston Hardy is UConn’s third three-star commit of the 2021 cycle, an edge rusher who moves really well at 6’3”, 230 lbs. that he spent time at tight end in high school. The son of Cowboys linebacker Kevin Hardy, Langston had the highest recruiting profile out of any UConn commit, holding offers from Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Wake Forest as well as a host of G5s.

Joe McFadden (K/P) - Southlake Carroll High School, Southlake Texas

Joe McFadden is the third-ranked kicking recruit in the nation according to the Chris Sailer kicking academy and rated three stars by the recruiting services. McFadden is a high school All-American who was pursued heavily by Arizona, Army, and Navy among others before committing to UConn in August.

Tyler Phommachanh (QB) - Avon Old Farms, Avon CT

Tyler Phommachanh will be a big addition to UConn’s quarterback room, pledging his future to UConn after a breakout 2019 with Avon Old Farms that drew interest from Duke, Rutgers, and Boston College. His older brother Taisun also played at Avon Old Farms and earned a scholarship to Clemson in 2018.

Tyler is a speedy dual-threat quarterback with good pocket presence, but knows when to cut his losses and gain yardage with his feet. His height may have limited attention from major powers, but his immense talent makes him a big in-state steal for the Huskies.

Joshua Tracey (WR) - Avon Old Farms, Avon, CT

If you’re planning on picking up the star in-state quarterback, nabbing his feature wide receiver couldn’t hurt. Tracey was Phommachanh’s favorite target at Avon Old Farms, and held kick and punt return duties for the Winged Beavers as well. Tracey is slight at 5’10” 170 lbs., but plays big for his size and has very good hands.

Pryce Yates (DL) - Reagan High School, San Antonio, Texas

Pryce Yates played on both sides of the line in high school but will feature prominently on the defensive side of the ball for the Huskies. He stands 6’4”, 240 lbs, and his build allows him to play as both an inside lineman and an edge rusher. Yates held offers from Army, Navy, Air Force, and multiple Ivy League schools before committing to UConn.

Maxwell Modeste (RB) - Byron Nelson High School, Trophy Club, Texas

Modeste is a 6’1”, 200 lb running back with a gaudy resume. He rushed for 636 yards and eight touchdowns in seven games his junior year, earning a spot on the All-District 506A team. He, too, held commitments from Navy, Air Force and a host of Ivies before announcing his intention to attend UConn.

Femi Sakiri (OL/DL) - Byron Nelson High School, Trophy Club, Texas

The Huskies’ second commit from the impeccably-named town in northern Texas, Sakiri is a beast at 6’4”, 285 lbs and can play guard or tackle on the offensive line. He’s not quite as highly rated as his teammate Modeste, but Edsall and the staff will have the chance to mold him into a workable player over the next few years.

Malcolm “Mick” Bell (DB) - Clarkson Football North, Ontario, Canada

UConn has gone up north quite a bit on the recruiting trail recently, and the trend looks to continue this year. Mick Bell has good size for a defensive back at 6’3”, and has an immense nose for the football. He held offers from Minnesota, Eastern Michigan and Kent State when he committed to UConn.

Deon McLean (ATH) - Lawrenceville School, Lawrenceville, New Jersey

Deon McLean has impressive size and speed for a high schooler and can play almost any position under the sun, featuring at running back, receiver, linebacker, and defensive back in his time at Lawrenceville. He’s the type of all-purpose recruit that could end up in any position at the next level.

Kaleb Anthony (DB) - Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy, McDonough, Georgia

UConn landed Anthony over South Alabama, Army, Air Force and Akron. He’s a 6’0” cornerback who can also fill in at free safety; a good athlete who was first-team All-Region in his junior year, and led Eagle’s Landing to three state titles in three years as a member of the program.

Deondrick Speight (LB) - Champagnat Catholic School, Hialeah Florida

Speight held offers from Charlotte, Southern Mississippi, and his hometown Florida Atlantic when he committed to UConn on July 28. He’s a three-sport athlete, playing on the track and baseball teams at Champagnat Catholic, and won the 2A state football championship his junior year.

Stanley Cross (DB) - Iowa Central Community College, Fort Dodge, Iowa

Cross made his commitment in October. As a freshman at the junior college level, Cross was a defensive backfield dynamo, recording 45 tackles and eight pass breakups on his way to an all-conference season. Cross will be considerably more ready for FBS action than the rest of UConn’s incoming defensive backs and may have a role in the backfield next spring and beyond.

UConn also received commitments from two preferred walk-ons in the past week: Mason Phillips, a linebacker from Queens Creek, Arizona, Jonathan Alexander, and Connor Maloney, a linebacker from Laurel, Maryland.

Stay tuned tomorrow for coverage of early signing day and beyond. Head coach Randy Edsall is expected to hold a virtual press conference at 11 a.m. on Wednesday.